Weather

Belmont to get green this spring – Gaston towns tired of being brown

Bowing to the pressure of local small businesses dependent on public water for their livelihoods, the Belmont City Council water committee has put forth a motion to ease water restrictions in the area.

Residents would be able to hand water, drip irrigate trees, shrubs, and personal gardens.  If approved, the watering could be done during the entire day on those three days. “I don’t mind the hand held watering,” said Councilman Charlie Flowers”.

This action is occurring while other Gaston county towns are also loosening restrictions.

 drought-map-3-4-08.gif

It seems that the “squeaky” (re: “leaky”) wheel gets the grease.  If City Council passes the recommendation, residents still will not be able to water their lawns.

Other communities throughout the state are still working on further restrictions and closely tracking water use, Belmont gets a bit a rain and Poof! – no more drought — in some eyes.

We admit there has been some improvement in the drought, but the area is still in what is considered exceptional drought conditions. Typically late February and the month of March are “catch up” months in regards to rain. Not this spring – so far.

A special meeting next Monday evening (6:30 PM) will have this discussion and vote. Interested people should attend this meeting and see how council members who have landscapers maintain their personal yards vote on this issue.

More information links: System Status for Belmont

Belmont Water Use Tables

Facility   

Basin    Pop    2008-03-10    2008-03-03    2008-02-25    2008-02-18   
Belmont Catawba River 8,974   1,676,143 1,605,571 1,668,286

Older table dates

Facility   

Basin    Pop    08-02-04    08-01-28    08-01-21    08-01-14    08-01-07   
Belmont Catawba River 8,974 1,545,286 1,672,429 1,685,857 1,568,714 1,744,143

Sure doesn’t look like water restrictions have affected Belmont’s use of water. Going back to an earlier article where the Belmont Front Porch reported on the growing practice of new wells being dug throughout the county, the County Health Department repudiated the charge that new wells were an issue with groundwater.

With this information, it seems that local “businesses” would not be affected — according to the County health department — just dig a well.

Good for business, keeps the businesses off the backs of elected “leaders”, and keeps the progeny of local councilmembers with their jobs.

It’s all good.

something-smells-here.jpg

SBA Loans to businesses affected by drought

At the last city council meeting, two local business owners pleaded with the council members for relief from water use restrictions.

Hoagland Landscaping and Southern Roots (the former Low Meadows) expressed concern that the cities and towns of the region had a mish-mash of rules governing what could and could not be done during each particular Water Restriction level.

They reported that trade organizations were working with area governments to consider standardizing the rules across community lines.

sba-logo.jpg

We agree with the suggestion and work to bring communities together for comprehensive guidelines regarding water use. The restrictions have created particular economic hardships to the hundreds of landscaping “companies” and nurseries that supply the community. In this instance, the drought is causing a shakeout of the landscapers in particular. The US Small Business Administration (SBA) began offering low-interest loans to businesses affected by the drought sometime last year. The shakeout of businesses that is occuring is a natural process of the market place in two levels. The first level are those businesses started as “sidelines” or supplemental jobs by folks such as firefighters, school teachers, and job-in-betweeners. Mainly folks who cut lawns and provide basic landscaping services. The second level are the true professionals who have made careers out of learning the trade and became proficient to have sustained the ups and downs of the industry.

We feel for both levels of providers. But again, there is temporary relief to help the rough spots. This document/flyer by the SBA could help those professionals over this weather-related hump.

As the rain last night and today remind us, God will provide. His timeframe and ours are not always the same. Balancing a precious resource such as freshwater with community sustainability versus a profit-making venture requires much discussion, debate, and cooperation.

small-business-loans.jpg

SNOW

snow.jpg

Not much, but it was enough to cancel school for the day.

Anybody have kids home, besides us? Gonna drive us crazy for one day. Then three days next week for the Martin Luther King holiday. Several folks are planning ski trips up to the mountains. Click here for mountain view webcams.

In a related note – the South Point HS phone tree is pleading for test proctors on Friday. If you can help, call 704-825-3351. It is a teacher’s workday today and the office staff are present.

snow-sledding.jpg (Gazette Photo – Mike Hendsill)

Everyone gets excited when we get a snow pattern in the weather. Please drive safely when the roads are wet and possibly slick.

Belmont Not Meeting Water Restriction Guidelines

water-tap.jpg

With Stage 3 water restrictions in place, Belmont must just be ignoring the severity of the drought.

In October, Governor Easley called on the municipalities throughout the state to cut water useage by 50%. According to the NC Drought Monitor, Belmont just isn’t meeting that goal.

gov-easley-water-consumption-monitor-10-22-07.pdf

Belmont’s average daily useage as of August 2007 was 2.4 million gallons per day.  

  12/10          12/3         11/26         11/19          11/12           11/5          10/29          10/22

-34.76% -29.97% -30.18% -29.48% -17.64% -19.66% -29.31% -33.75%

So, what’s up with that?

It is not as if the state hadn’t given communities guidelines or unreasonable expectations. Back in 2002, during the last drought,  the State passed HB 1215. Section 5 of House Bill 1215 required the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to evaluate water conservation measures being implemented in North Carolina and to identify incentive programs and other voluntary programs that can help foster water conservation, water reuse, and water use efficiency.

water-use-during-droughts-and-water-supply-emergencies.pdf

At the last city council meeting, City Manager Barry Webb, spoke about the possible actions to “encourage” further water conservation, including a “temporary” water rate increase.

We all know that several businesses will be heavily impacted, and that those on “fixed incomes” will want exemptions right off the bat, if council seriously considers this added taxation.

12-18-drought-map-nc.gif

Shrinking Catawba reveals surprises for watchful

pb280301.jpg

(BFP reader submitted photo)

JOE DEPRIEST

Anybody can see the Catawba River is in trouble.

All that land uncovered by retreating water is a constant reminder of just how much. It looks like you could play softball or miniature golf on wide open spaces that were once inundated. As I worry about the river, I’ve wondered if the land will be permanently damaged by prolonged exposure and if the river would look the same once the drought ends.

Two local river experts — Joe Stowe of Belmont and Jimmy Drumm of Mount Holly — recently told me the exposed land won’t be harmed in the long run.

Both have been keeping a close watch on the river they love. They’ve never seen the water as low and or been so amazed at the things they’ve found there.

Stowe, 66, who is chairman of the Lake Wylie Marine Commission, recently spotted a 3-foot-diameter red oak stump near his boat lift.

It was an opportunity for him to clear out a major chunk of debris. Sparks flew as Stowe’s chainsaw bit hard into the stump.

The thing didn’t want to come out of the spot where it had been sunk so long the wood had almost petrified.

The shrinking Catawba is full of surprises in these critical times.

The drought has changed the dynamics of wildlife along the river.

Stowe said more raccoons, squirrels and deer are watering in the river as small creeks and streams dry up in nearby forests.

He’s seen muskrats moving to the water as their dens are exposed in riprap along the shoreline.

The muskrats and raccoons are also dealing with a reduced food source.

Stowe said that in early summer, as the river banks first began retreating, mussels were exposed and died. The rotten mussels attracted flocks of buzzards, gulls and crows. That’s passed now, but Stowe said the mussel population took a big hit.

With boat traffic down, he said the river actually looks cleaner. He thinks people are taking better care of the ailing Catawba.

Pieces of the past     pb280315.jpg

Competitive fisherman Jimmy Drumm isn’t on the Catawba as often — only about twice a week instead of four or five because of the drought.All the boat landings have been closed except for the one at Nivens Creek in Lake Wylie, S.C.

Drumm, 60, has fished the river since age 3. He knows the Catawba’s stories and lore and respects it highly.

His current view of the river: There’s plenty of deep water and fish are still biting.

Just be careful when you get out there. And don’t even think about venturing north of the railroad trestle in Belmont. From that point about two miles or so upriver to the Mountain Island Dam, the going is extremely treacherous.

pb280303.jpg

(BFP reader submitted photo)

Drumm knows that for a fact. He tried it about 1 1/2 months ago.

“It was very, very slow going,” Drumm said. “I was amazed at the rock beds and the clusters of trash and roots and stumps. I’d never seen this stuff before.”

On the exposed ground, he saw bridge abutments washed away by the legendary flood of July 1916 — the same high water that destroyed the Mountain Island textile mill and village. Drumm spotted an old wooden device with metal hooks that may have been used at the mill to roll logs or cotton bales.

He also found an old wagon wheel hub and spokes. When he returned later to get the items, someone had already beaten him to them. Drumm has heard about folks hunting the exposed land for musket balls and arrowheads.

As the drought continues, the river reveals pieces of the region’s past.

Looking ahead

I hope the drought breaks soon, but forecasts don’t look good.

Stowe said if the river level drops another foot, some water intakes will become inoperable. Continued conservation is a must.

Meanwhile, Stowe and Drumm also are concerned about the river’s long-term future.

Managing sediment caused by development will continue to be a problem long after the drought.

Maybe our worries in this extraordinary dry season will stick in our minds. When the river rebounds, it still will be in trouble and need our help.

Keep Belmont Beautiful helps students learn about water conservation

kbb_logo_large.jpg

Keep Belmont Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, has been using the proceeds from a Community Foundation Grant to help educate third graders in Belmont about environmental issues.

This grant, entitled Planting the Seeds of Learning, is being used to provide a monthly program to North Belmont and Belmont Central Elementary students.

October’s program was on water conservation, and children learned tips for conserving water, current levels of rainfall, and the mandated water restrictions by the City of Belmont. They all received a 30-minute program on water conservation tips and were given copies of water conservation tips to take home and a word search and coloring section on water conservation. All third grade classes were given presentations by Carolyn Sly on how to construct a compost pile, each class room receiving all of the equipment to build it.

Keep Belmont Beautiful educates and involves the community in litter and waste reduction, recycling, beautification and natural resources conservation.

kbb-in-the-classroom.jpg

(KBB photo – Carolyn Sly in Classroom)
 

Bad news: Carolinas cheated out of rain again

rain-dance.jpg 

Rain Dance

by Steve Lyttle, Charlotte.com  

Forecasters say a combination of events will rob the Charlotte metro region and much of the Carolinas of what had been a strong chance for badly needed rain today.

Instead of a steady rain, we’ll be lucky to get a shower or two, they say.

But forecasters still hold out hope for Friday.

This is terrible news for the region, which is locked in one of the worst droughts in history. Charlotte is more than 13 inches below normal for rainfall this year, and mandatory water restrictions are in place across the area.

Today’s problem is a familiar story. It has happened at least four times since July.

A general area of low pressure has developed across the Southeast, and forecasters originally thought showery periods of rain would cross the region today. But instead, an area of strong thunderstorms is forming along the Gulf Coast, and that is robbing our region of moisture. In addition, the second center of the low pressure is moving to our north.

That leaves the Carolinas stuck in a relatively dry area between the two rainy areas.

It doesn’t mean we’ll be dry and sunny today. The atmosphere is very moist, and fog will be common in many area this morning. Skies will be mostly cloudy for the rest of the day, with high temperatures in the upper 70s and humid conditions.

On Friday, a frontal system will cross our area. Rodney Hinson, of the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C., said that front is our next good chance for rainfall. Showers and thunderstorms are expected to develop along the front, with most of the precipitation expected to fall before 2 p.m.

Clearing is expected Friday evening and night, so the high school football games likely can be played without any problems.

Friday’s front will mean a pretty weekend.

Partly to mostly sunny skies are predicted, along with temperatures approaching 80 degrees both Saturday and Sunday.